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A Place for Positive Law

For those of you who don’t know, L. and I will be out of town for the holidays. In fact, we are already out of town; but I’ve arranged to have some not-especially-time-sensitive posts go up while I’m away through devious WordPress scheduling trickery, so stay tuned. While we’re away, we’ll first be visiting my assorted relations in Texas, and then heading east to the Molinari Society session at the APA Eastern Division meeting in Baltimore. The session will be a symposium on the theme Anarchy: It’s Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law. Roderick will be presenting a paper on Spooner’s early theory of constitutional interpretation (most famously presented in The Unconstitutionality of Slavery), and the degree to which it can be reconciled with his later radical rejection of the Constitution and all forms of government-made law as having no legitimate authority over anyone. (Geoffrey Allan Plauché will be giving prepared comments in reply.) I’ll be presenting a new paper, A Place for Positive Law: A Contribution to Anarchist Legal Theory, which is also about Spooner, but from a different angle:

Peter Kropotkin famously defined anarchism as

… a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of civilized beings.

If he was right about that, then anarchist legal theory would seem to be either a contradiction in terms, or an exercise in demonology. Anarchists want to abolish the State as such, and replace it with a society without government. And without a government, how would you have laws? Maybe so, but what I want to do today is not to storm the Law from the outside. Before the Law there stands a doorkeeper, and I note that he is mighty. My remarks will aim instead at an internal critique of a common-sense view of the law, beginning with some common premises that most statists share, and then moving towards the anarchistic conclusion that no government has sovereign authority to impose legal obligations on anyone. I will then consider a difficult problem that seems to face the anarchistic conclusion—the problem of reducing the natural law. I shall argue, though, that the solution that government seems to promise cannot withstand critical scrutiny; an anarchist solution to the problem will be difficult—one of the most difficult theoretical problems for anarchists to tackle—but the difficulty is necessary for a solution to the problem that is not simply arbitrary. The place for me to begin, then, is with the concept of law.

John Hasnas will be commenting. You can read the whole thing online. Comments, questions, applause, brickbats, etc. are welcome, either in private or in the comments section below.

Over My Shoulder #31: J.R. Hummel on the occupation and the insurgency in the border states during the American Civil War

Welcome to a special President’s Day edition of Over My Shoulder! The Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one does not recognize President’s Day as a national holiday, but our Foreign Service thought that it might make interesting reading for our American neighbors. Anyway, here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from Chapter 5 of J. R. Hummel’s excellent history of the American Civil War, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men (ISBN 0-8126-9312-4). Hummel’s book has the advantage of being perhaps the only comprehensive historical overview of the Civil War that avoids counterhistorical nostalgia for the marble men of either the North or the South. (If anything, the dominant trend in Civil War historiography has been counterhistorical nostalgia for both.) Here’s a bit about how the slave lords of the South and the Great Emancipator waged their war in the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maryland. Observers of modern-day Deciders and insurgents may find some interesting points to note.

Holding Maryland and Missouri

Four slave states on the border remained to be heard from: Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Only tiny Delaware was unquestionably loyal. In Maryland popular sentiment was bitterly divided. The governor was timidly pro-Union, whereas the majority of the legislature leaned toward secession. Maryland, however, was vital to the Lincoln Administration. It not only contained Baltimore, the country’s third largest city; the state also isolated the nation’s capital, itself a southern town, from the free states further north. No sizable regular army units were on hand for Washington’s defense, and with Confederate flags already visible across the Potomac River to the south, Lincoln feared he might have to flee.

The arrival of the first regiment to answer Lincoln’s call, the 6th Massachusetts, did nothing to dispel the panic. A mob had attacked the troops in Baltimore as they shuttled between train stations. In the ensuing melee shots were exchanged. Four soldiers and at least nine civilians died, with many more injured. While the 6th Massachusetts limped into Washington, Baltimore officials burned the railroad bridges and cut the telegraph wires.

Not until more regiments began pouring into the beleaguered capital a week later was it truly secure. Lincoln then suspended the writ of habeas corpus along the military line between Philadelphia and the District of Columbia and clamped a military occupation down upon Maryland. The governor convened the legislature in the northwest part of the state, where unionism was strong. Although the legislature rejected secession, it came out for the peaceful and immediate recognition of the independence of the Confederate States; the state hereby gives her cordial consent thereunto, as a member of the Union. The legislature also denounced the present military occupation of Maryland as a flagrant violation of the Constitution.

The military authorities soon began imprisoning prominent secessionists without trial. The writ of habeas corpus was a constitutional safeguard to prevent such imprisonments without sufficient legal cause, and one of the incarcerated Marylanders, John Merryman, attempted an appeal on that basis. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, sitting as a circuit judge, ordered Merryman released, but federal officials, acting under Lincoln’s orders, refused. The aging Chief Justice, just three years from death’s door, thereupon issued a blistering opinion holding that only Congress had the constitutional right to suspend habeas corpus. The President certainly does not faithfully execute the laws, if he takes upon himself legislative power, by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and judicial power also, by arresting and imprisoning a person without due process of law, declared Taney. If Lincoln’s action was allowed to stand, then the people of the United States are no longer living under a Government of laws, but every citizen holds life, liberty and property at the will and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may happen to be found.

Lincoln simply ignored Taney’s opinion. He also wrote standing orders for the Chief Justice’s arrest, although these were never served. The President did not ignore, however, the increasingly outspoken Maryland legislature when it lodged a sharp protest with Congress. Rather, Secretary of State Seward ordered a lightning statewide raid that jailed thirty-one legislators, the mayor of Baltimore, one of the state’s Congressmen, and key anti-Administration publishers and editors. At the state’s next election in the fall of 1861, federal provost marshals stood guard at the polls and arrested any disunionists who attempted to vote. The outcome was further rigged by granting special three-day furloughs to Marylanders who had joined the Union army so that they could go home and vote. Unsurprisingly, the new legislature was solidly behind the war.

Events in Maryland inspired the words to one of the Confederacy’s favorite marching songs, Maryland, My Maryland. Written by James Ryder Randall, they were adapted to the music of O Tannenbaum:

The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb–
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

The song with only minor changes eventually became the state’s official anthem, but Maryland was never able to come to the Confederacy.

Farther west, the border state of Missouri contained a larger population than any other slave state outside of Virginia. A special convention chosen by the people had rejected secession before the attack on Fort Sumter. But the state’s newly elected governor, Claiborne Jackson, a former border ruffian, favored the Confederacy and refused Lincoln’s call for troops. The governor controlled the state militia, which was in spring encampment near St. Louis. The local Union commander, the impetuous and intolerant Captain Nathaniel Lyon, precipitated open hostilities by surrounding the militia encampment with his own force of regulars and hastily recruited German immigrants. The militia laid down their arms, but a crowd gathered that was not so peaceful. The raw Union recruits fired indiscriminately, killing twenty-eight mostly innocent bystanders.

This provocation converted many Union sympathizers into secessionists. One delegate to the state convention, who had voted against Missouri’s secession, announced his change of heart to a city crowd. If Unionism means such atrocious deeds as have been witnessed in St. Louis, I am no longer a Union man. The Lincoln Administration’s heavy-handed ineptitude had managed to provoke open hostilities within a state that had not formally seceded. The legislature rallied behind Governor Jackson and granted him dictatorial powers, but Federal troops chased them all out of the state capital. Missouri ended up with two shadow governments, one in the Union, the other in the Confederacy. Declaring the governorship vacant and the legislature abolished, the anti-secessionist members of the state convention operated without elections as a provisional government loyal to the Union for the next three years. The remnant of the legislature, meanwhile, joined the deposed governor in aligning with the Confederacy.

The real power in Missouri was the Federal military, which gained nominal control over most of the state. A ferocious guerrilla war devastated the countryside, however. John C. Frémont, who assumed command of the Union’s Western Department, imposed martial law at the end of August. Circumstances, in my judgment, of sufficient urgency render it necessary that the commanding general of this department should assume the administrative powers of the State. On his own authority, Frémont freed the slaves of those in rebellion and confiscated all their other real and personal property. He also proclaimed the death penalty for any captured guerrillas. All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and if found guilty will be shot. … All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the publication of this order, railroad tracks, bridges, or telegraphs shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

The President countermanded the precipitate emancipation and replaced Frémont in order to placate what loyal sentiment was left in the various border states. But Missouri remained under martial law. The internecine warfare was further aggravated as Kansas jayhawkers crossed the border and took revenge for the earlier efforts of the Missouri border ruffians to extend slavery into Kansas. What one historian has called a maelstrom of retaliation and counter-retaliation built to a howling crescendo. During the war’s second summer, the most notorious band of Confederate partisans, lead by William C. Quantrill, descended upon Lawrence, Kansas, burned the business district to the ground, and murdered in cold blood every male inhabitant they could locate–183 in all.

Union commanders responded with such harsh measures as General Order No. 11, which forcibly relocated nearly all the residents of four western counties in Missouri, destroyed their crops, and razed their homes and barns. The relocation made no effort to distinguish between citizens loyal to the Union and those disloyal. Only six hundred persons were left in Cass County, which before the war had a population of ten thousand. After observing a boat that was crowded full of deportees, one Federal colonel expressed the bitterness widespread among Union soldiers toward a populace that had spanwed Bushwackers. God knows where they are all going for I don[‘]t nor do I care, he wrote his wife. I think if we get rid of the women then it will not be hard to get rid of [the Bushwackers]. This legacy of hatred, dating back six years before Fort Sumter, would continue to plague Kansas and Missouri long after the rest of the country attained peace. Many of the desperate young boys whose families were banished and who rode with Quantrill, such as seventeen-year-old Jesse James, would not abandon their violent grudges until they reached the grave.

Kentucky and West Virginia

The Union handling of Kentucky, birthplace of both Lincoln and Davis, was initially more tactful than its handling of either Missouri or Maryland. Fear that this border state would join the Confederacy was one of the major reasons that Lincoln had revoked Frémont’s emancipation proclamation. The Kentucky Legislature would not budge till that proclamation was modified, he confided in private correspondence. I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we can not hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.

Although Kentucky’s governor favored secession and refused to supply Lincoln with militia, the state’s unionists were numerous enough to get the legislature to declare neutrality. This kept Kentucky free from either side’s armies for four months. When Confederate troop movements violated the neutrality, the legislature invited Union forces to expel the invaders. Many individual Kentuckians, however, had already enlisted in the Confederate ranks. They elected a convention that passed an ordinance of secession and set up an alternative state government. Thus Kentucky, like Missouri, was represented in both the Confederacy and the Union.

The Confederate military never could consolidate control over Kentucky, and the Union embrace squeezed tighter as the war heated up. Federal authorities declared martial law; required loyalty oaths before people could trade or engage in many other daily activities; censored books, journals, sermons, and sheet music; and crowded the jails with Rebel sympathizers. By 1862 the military was interfering with elections, preventing candidates from running, and dispersing the Democratic convention at bayonet point. The net result was that the people of Kentucky felt greater solidarity with the rest of the South at the war’s end than at its beginning.

The Lincoln Administration carved still another border state out of the mountains of northwestern Virginia. Owning very few slaves, the regions residents had long been disaffected from Virginia’s tidewater oligarchy. Moreover, the strategically crucial Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran through the region. Confederate guerrillas cut the railroad within the first month after Sumter. But General George Brinton McClellan led about 20,000 Ohio volunteers into western Virginia in one of the war’s earliest campaigns. By the end of July he had reopened the railroad and driven out enemy formations.

McClellan was a short, dapper man, of only thirty-five, with a natural military bearing. His conciliatory proclamation to the local populace stood in marked contrast to Frémont’s policy in Missouri. To the Union Men of Western Virginia: … I have ordered troops to cross the river, McClellan announced. But they come as your friends and your brothers–as enemies only to the armed rebels who are preying upon you. Your homes, your families, and your property are safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously respected. This included property in slaves, notwithstanding all that has been said by the traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signalized by interference with your slaves. Indeed, not only will we abstain from all such interference, but we will, on the contrary, with an iron hand, crush any attempt at [slave] insurrection. Future campaigns would convert McClellan’s west Virginia success into a minor skirmish by comparison. But at this early date, it gained him a fawning reputation in northern newspapers as the Young Napoleon.

Virginia’s northwestern counties, however, could not yet legally establish a separate state, because the United States Constitution requires permission from the parent state. So instead, the Lincoln Administration organized the loyal residents of the western counties into a pro-Union government for the entire state. The legislature of this bogus Virginia government then authorized the separation of the northwestern counties in May 1862. When West Virginia entered the Union in 1863, the new state encompassed not only unionist counties but also many that would rather have remained part of Confederate Virginia.

The Confederate government made its own attempt in the far west to do the same as the Union did in Virginia. Settlers in the southern and western parts of the New Mexico territory were sympathetic to the South, so in early 1862 they formed the new territory of Arizona and attached themselves to the Confederacy. This separation did not last long, however. Federal troops recovered these settlements later that summer.

The Civil War experience throughout the entire borderland, in short, comprised variations on a single pattern. While military occupation maintained formal Union sovereignty, popular feelings were torn, setting neighbor against neighbor and sometimes brother against brother. Kentucky, home to the now deceased Henry Clay, sent three of the Great Pacificator’s grandsons to fight for the North and four to fight for the South. From Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia together, about 185,000 white men served in the Union armies, while 103,000 served in the Confederate armies. Occasionally opposing units from the same border state would engage each other on a battlefield. Nowhere was the designation Civil War more apt.

–Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War (1996), pp. 141–148.

Thanks again, bro: Sigs at Whitman College go “above and beyond what other people do” for Halloween… with blackface Halloween costumes

(Story thanks to a tip from TL.)

Just about every year, right around now, I get to hear the same thing again: a bunch of students, most of them white, threw a party involving blackface costumes and other forms of crude racist caricature. It happened at Auburn–at least twice. It happened at Ole Miss. It happened at Syracuse. It happened at Oklahoma State. It happened at Stetson. It doesn’t always happen at a fraternity party, but it often does. Sometimes the kids opt for broad pastiches of gangsta images that they’ve picked up from MTV. Sometimes they opt for explicit references to the history of slavery and militant white supremacy. Sometimes–as it seems happened in Baltimore–they opt for both. The pattern is established, and the reactions are reliable. While University administrators are busy rushing to make a public example of whoever was caught throwing the party, and anxiously insisting (to anybody who cares to listen) that this is an isolated incident, not representative of the campus culture, etc. etc. etc., it’s left to those who know something about what actually goes on on campus (usually Black students or faculty) to point out, yet again, that these things happen in a broader context, that this is nothing new, that things like this happen all the time on campus, and that the only thing special about this case is that the story went public. Then a few months later, everything settles back down, the administration eases or completely reverses its disciplinary actions against the fraternity, and we wait until late next October or early next November, when exactly the same damned thing happens at yet another Halloween party somewhere else.

… Thanks a lot, guys. You have officially ruined Halloween.

— GT 2006-11-03: Thanks, bro: a racially themed frat party at Johns Hopkins University

In case you were wondering, it’s still that time of the year, and the brothers of Sigma Chi have continued their tradition of leadership and service–not only at Johns Hopkins, but also at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington:

Walking into the Survivor-themed greek party, Sigma Chi juniors Brice Crayne and Bryan Ponti could never have imagined the kind of reaction their costumes would ultimately get. They said later that they just wanted to stand out: and with their faces and bodies painted entirely black with orange markings, they certainly did. It didn??t strike them that their body paint would eventually move the entire campus to a standstill.

Senior Natalie Knott was browsing the Internet in the library when she came across photographs of Crayne and Ponti from the party. Feeling a gut reaction, Knott showed the pictures to a few friends who didn??t see much controversy.

I had to leave the library because I was really angry but I couldn??t figure out why because nobody was seeing what I saw, Knott said. She drew connections to racist archetypes, specifically the blackface minstrel shows popular in the early 1900s. After speaking for hours about the issue with friends in her apartment complex, Knott decided she should bring her concerns to a faculty member.

The next day, Knott consulted with Politics Professor Bruce Magnusson, who told her that she should show the photographs to the dean. After conferencing with student life committee chair Clare Carson for an hour, Knott decided to post her thoughts to the student listserv, at Carson??s suggestion.

The response was immediate. Feedback poured in over the listserv from minority students who felt offended, white students who felt attacked and a slew of others whose feelings fell somewhere in the middle.

— Sophie Johnson, Whitman College Pioneer (2006-10-26): ‘Blackface’ incident ignites campus

As a side note, I don’t have access to FaceBook, so I haven’t seen the photo. If any of y’all out there can find them, please feel free to pass them along to me–I think it’s important that these images be brought out into the open for public discussion.

Meheret Debebe, 19, a Whitman sophomore, said she was more offended by what she read in the listserv than by the picture.

I thought wow, I go to school with a lot of racist people, she said.

Debebe, who is black, said she has felt alienated at her school in the past.

— Maria P. Gonzalez, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (2006-11-11): ‘Blackface’ incident has Whitman abuzz

The poor lil’ white boys and their buddies insist that they’ve gotten a bum rap. After all, hey, their intentions were pure as the driven snow–they just blacked up because they wanted to stand out (for what, exactly?). Besides, who says that in their totally non-racist minds blackface had anything in particular to do with race?

The responses that resulted from Knott??s initial e-mail ranged from passively curious to incensed. At first, the bulk of responses were from those who felt insulted by Knott??s assertions. … Whitman??s Sigma Chi president senior James Hovard was one of the first people that took issue with Knott??s e-mail. Hovard heard about the e-mail from a friend, and he produced a reply that same night.

I was a little shocked and surprised because I was at that party and the thought of Brice and Bryan dressing up in blackface never crossed my mind. I know that they wore black paint, but I never thought of it as a racial issue, Hovard said.

— Sophie Johnson, Whitman College Pioneer (2006-10-26): ‘Blackface’ incident ignites campus

Well, then.

Neither Crayne nor Ponti responded to the listserv e-mail, but both were personally affected by the incident.

I had to set up a punching bag in my room I was so mad, said Crayne: I felt like someone had passed judgment on me; someone had called me something I definitely am not, and that??s a racist.

Ponti felt similarly attacked. The individual who pointed out everything that was wrong with the pictures did not contact either me or my good friend as to our intentions, they simply wrote their e-mail in the heat of the moment and we were caught completely off guard, he said.

— Sophie Johnson, Whitman College Pioneer (2006-10-26): ‘Blackface’ incident ignites campus

God forbid anyone should ever pass judgment on your behavior, or consider what you did apart from the esoteric of what you were feeling, deep down in your heart. Gosh but it must be so hard on them to feel attacked and misrepresented by the majority.

The students, who belong to the Sigma Chi fraternity, say they never meant to insult or offend anyone.

It was never meant to be a statement, Crayne said. We’re a couple guys who like to go above and beyond what other people do.

… As for Ponti and Crayne, they have come away with a lesson.

Now that I see I offended people I’ll never do it again, Ponti said.

I can totally understand how they were offended and once I thought about it in that way I apologized. I was sorry, Crayne said.

— Maria P. Gonzalez, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (2006-11-11): ‘Blackface’ incident has Whitman abuzz

Well, that’s mighty white of them.

Here is an old black and white photo of several white students in minstrel-show blackface, smiling at the camera and holding a banner reading 'We love the Betas.'

Whitman College Greeks in black face standing in front of the old student union building in the 1950s. From a presentation by Whitman professor Duke Richey. I’m sure none of them meant to make a statement.

Still, I can’t say that I’m particularly encouraged that college juniors think it’s a perfectly good excuse, in cases like these, to pass themselves off as too damned ignorant and thoughtless to be expected to know anything in particular about the history of race in America, or minstrel shows, or the use of blackface, or why folks just might not be entirely cool with it.

The faculty’s response has been relatively sensible: besides encouraging Knott to bring the FaceBook photos up with her fellow students, they’ve also cancelled a few classes to put on community events to teach about the history and implications of blackface. The administration, on the other hand, has taken this as a chance to boldly wring their hands about a PR disaster and take serious steps towards slapping the offending white frat boys on the wrist:

The costumes have since spurred heated discussions, seemingly divided the campus and prompted a Town Hall meeting that drew hundreds.

In the most recent response to the blackface incident, all classes were suspended Thursday while the college held a daylong symposium on race and diversity.

College takes action [sic]

In response, college President George Bridges worked with faculty and student leaders to address the tensions and to start the process of educating the campus on racial sensitivities.

Ponti and Crayne were not disciplined, but did meet with Bridges.

— Maria P. Gonzalez, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (2006-11-11): ‘Blackface’ incident has Whitman abuzz

I’m glad they got their talking-to and all, but I can’t say that this entirely dislodges Amanda Marcotte’s question-and-answer: Where are college kids getting this idea that they should have the benefit of having their racism and sexism coddled and protected? Obviously, that??s just a rhetorical question, because I know exactly where they??re getting that idea, which is from all the authority figures who coddle and protect them.

Further reading:

Thanks, bro: a “racially themed” frat party at Johns Hopkins University

(Story thanks to a tip from Lisa Casanova.)

Campus life in America

photo: two white members of the women's softball team, in blackface, posing for the camera with gold teeth flashing and hands making gang signs

Stetson University, Halloween 2005

photo: frat brothers, one in blackface, pose a mock lynching.

Oklahoma State, September 2002

photo: white frat brothers, one in blackface, pose with the student in blackface kneeling on the floor and a student dressed as a cop pointing a prop gun at his head. Ole Miss, Halloween 2001.

Ole Miss, Halloween 2001.

photo: white Beta Theta Pi frat brothers flash gangsta poses in blackface. Auburn, Halloween 2001

Auburn, Halloween 2001.

photo: white frat brothers, one dressed in Klan robes and one in blackface, stage a mock lynching. Auburn, Halloween 2001.

Auburn, Halloween 2001.

It’s early November; that means it’s time for yet another isolated incident at a Halloween party on yet another college campus. This one comes to us thanks to the brothers of Sigma Chi at Johns Hopkins University:

BALTIMORE – Johns Hopkins University suspended a fraternity Monday afternoon following a racially themed Halloween party Saturday night at an off-campus house.

Members of the Black Student Union and supporters rallied on North Charles Street in front of the campus, speaking out against the local Sigma Chi chapter and perceived racial hostility on campus. Hopkins is investigating the party and said the national Sigma Chi fraternity has imposed a 45-day suspension of the chapter??s activities and will conduct its own investigation.

The uproar began shortly after the Halloween in the ??Hood party was advertised on the Web site Facebook.com. The invitation encouraged racial-stereotyping costumes, included references to the late attorney Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, and prefaced descriptions of Baltimore as a ghetto, the hood and the HIV pit with a four-letter epithet.

The invitation was attributed to Justin H. Park, who is listed as a Sigma Chi Class of 2008 member on the fraternity??s Web site.

Johns Hopkins said in a written statement that the Greek life coordinator had told the chapter president last week that he found the advertisement racist and offensive, and directed the fraternity to withdraw the advertising immediately, but it reappeared without the coordinator??s knowledge, in an altered but still offensive form.

… A small group of black students went to the party and said white students were dressed as pimps, prostitutes — and slaves. Outside the front door of the house in the 200 block of East 33rd Street was a plastic skeleton dressed as a pirate, hanging from a rope noose.

And then as you walked up to the house, you heard fake gunshots ?? as if there is a gun fight in this neighborhood every night, said freshman Blake Edwards, 18. The noose is extremely offensive and makes a mockery of the minority students that go to school here. Several of the girls I went with left in tears.

The entire city of Baltimore should be offended by this.

— Ron Cassie, The Examiner (2006-10-31): Johns Hopkins fraternity suspended after racially themed Halloween party

Here is the text of one of the invitations posted to FaceBook by Justin Park. I don’t have access to FaceBook so my information is limited, but I gather that this is the revised version:

OMG RACIST officially invites you to this delightful gaiety in honor of the last day of October, held in the exquisite metropolis paradise that we affectionately refer to as the mother-f*cking ghetto, aka the hood or as I like to call it, the hiv pit.

Refreshments include Foie Gras, Belgian Caviar, and Cambodian Breast Milk.

Ornate antique bathtubs full of Evian and Perrier will be provided for your bathing pleasure.

Admission to this bonanza is contingent on appropriate accourtrement – regional clothing from our locale is recommended. These include, but are not limited to, fur coats, copious amounts of so-called bling bling ice ice grills, hoochie hoops, white Tee’s and Air Force Onez.

There will be special accolades to those attired in the most conniving and despicable outfits.

OMG RACIST would like you to know that he does not condone or advocate racism, fascism, communism, consumerism, capitalism, terrorism, organism(s), sexism, womanism, jism, or any other -ism’s.

For the record, we would like to thank our founding fathers for incorporating the first amendment into the venerable Bill of Rights, and Johnnie L. Cochran for being a true homie and getting Orenthal Simpson, commonly known as OJ, acquitted.

ps we STILL don’t discriminate against hoodrats, skig skags, or scallywops.

— Justin Park, quoted at GreekChat bulletin board

Just about every year, right around now. I get to hear the same thing again: a bunch of students, most of them white, threw a party involving blackface costumes and other forms of crude racist caricature. It happened at Auburn–at least twice. It happened at Ole Miss. It happened at Syracuse. It happened at Oklahoma State. It happened at Stetson. It doesn’t always happen at a fraternity party, but it often does. Sometimes the kids opt for broad pastiches of gangsta images that they’ve picked up from MTV. Sometimes they opt for explicit references to the history of slavery and militant white supremacy. Sometimes–as it seems happened in Baltimore–they opt for both. The pattern is established, and the reactions are reliable. While University administrators are busy rushing to make a public example of whoever was caught throwing the party, and anxiously insisting (to anybody who cares to listen) that this is an isolated incident, not representative of the campus culture, etc. etc. etc., it’s left to those who know something about what actually goes on on campus (usually Black students or faculty) to point out, yet again, that these things happen in a broader context, that this is nothing new, that things like this happen all the time on campus, and that the only thing special about this case is that the story went public. Then a few months later, everything settles back down, the administration eases or completely reverses its disciplinary actions against the fraternity, and we wait until late next October or early next November, when exactly the same damned thing happens at yet another Halloween party somewhere else.

Just this last weekend I was driving to work, just south of the University of Michigan campus, looking at the party-goers wandering to campus Halloween parties in their costumes. And I drove through the streets wondering whether I’d be seeing the Klan robes, the nooses, the blacked-up white boys dressed as slaves, or the thug poses and afro wigs and the insufferable grins. And wondering, if I didn’t see it, whether it was going on somewhere else, out of my sight, where it would hit the papers in a few days. I was worrying about all these things when I should have been enjoying the simple, silly joy of people dressing up for the night because every fucking year I can fully expect to hear another story about another racist party, just about now. Over and over again.

Thanks a lot, guys. You have officially ruined Halloween.

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